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First Postpartum Depression Drug: Effective, Cumbersome

Women felt improvement within 24 hours, but need to get it via IV for 60 hours
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2019 4:25 AM CDT
The CDC estimates the condition affects as many as one in five mothers in the year after birth.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – A groundbreaking treatment has been approved for what doctors say is a major medical condition that doesn't get talked about enough. The FDA has approved brexanolone, the first treatment specifically targeting postpartum depression, which will be sold as "Zulresso," USA Today reports. Doctors say it is much faster and more effective than the standard antidepressants generally given to women suffering depression in the year after giving birth. In trials, women said they felt marked improvement within 24 hours. The treatment contains a synthetic form of the hormone allopregnanolone, which is thought to be linked to postpartum depression because it steadily builds up in the body during pregnancy then plummets after birth, NBC reports.

Postpartum depression, which can be so severe that women consider harming themselves or their child, is estimated to affect as many as one in five mothers. Dr. Kimberly Yonkers at the Yale School of Medicine, a professor of psychiatry, obstetrics, and gynecology, says the existence of a drug targeted at the condition will go a long way toward removing any stigma associated with it. But the treatment has its downsides, the New York Times reports. It is delivered as a continuous intravenous infusion over 60 hours, during which the mother must stay in a medical center—and manufacturer Sage Therapeutics says it will cost an average $34,000 per patient, which it believes insurers will cover. The company says it is working on a pill version of the treatment. (Read more postpartum depression stories.)

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